Here’s a strange one.
Prompted by my fondness for their lovingly compiled box sets (like the Ork Records collection and their archival White Zombie cache), I recently started following The Numero Group on Instagram. While they do indeed release an awful lot of music that I’m just not-at-all familiar with, I have tremendous respect for their attention to detail and shared affinity for the physical manifestations of music. I consider them kindred souls.
Anyway, earlier today they put up a post (see below) focussing on the mid-90’s indie band, Blonde Redhead. Those who’ve stuck with this blog for a while might remember a post I composed about a long-vanished live music venue in the Meat Packing District called The Cooler. I saw Blonde Redhead at the Cooler a couple of times. I’m not sure I’d be crass enough to call it a gimmick, but Blonde Redhead (named after a suitably skronky song by No Wave pioneers, DNA) did boast a distinguishing characteristic in that they featured a pair of identical twins in the band. While certainly not the first ensemble to boast this feature (hello, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Connesls, The Breeders), it did lend them a sort of rarified mystique. Here’s their post now…
I was struck by this post for a number of reasons. For a start, it’s a cool little slice of vintage Blonde Redhead. I don’t know if they’re still active today, but I have indeed spotted one or both of twins around town (although I’ve never accosted them). There were a compelling live band, to be sure
Secondly, I love this snippet — which dates back to 1995 — as it retains a whiff of the old Canal Street (which I spoke of quite recently here). While I tenuously asserted in that recent post that Canal hasn’t visually changed that much when compared to its neighboring SoHo and TriBeCa, this clip does feature the interior and exterior of the since-vanished Industrial Plastics, an old surplus fixture on that strip that is long gone. When I worked as a gopher for a graphic designer in the mid-to-late 80’s, I was regularly sent down to Industrial Plastics to procure any number of weird items for her. Here’s a nice shot of it (photo courtesy of this blog).
The third reason this post sunk its hooks into me is that it features the photography of a gent named Michael Ackerman, a name I’d not heard in ages.
Back in the early 90’s, both Michael and I contributed to a freebie weekly paper called New York Perspectives. I used to write for their music page, while Michael leant his burgeoning photography skills to their features and covers. Springing off my association with the New York Review of Records (which I spoke in greater detail of here), Perspectives was kind of a knock-off of New York Press, albeit slightly less snarky. Regardless, I was hugely happy to be a part of it, and met some great people through it, many of whom I’m still friends with today, although Perspectives stopped publishing at some point in the mid-90’s, I believe. Sadly, today there is precious little evidence out there that the paper ever existed, although I still have a yellowing pile of them in my front hall closet.
In any case, Michael and I got to know each other a little circa 1991-1993, usually fraternizing around the Perspectives office or at parties thrown by the managing editor, Jon, at his cavernous shared-apartment over on a then-troubled strip of East 14th Street (over what is today the Beauty Bar). But we worked together specifically on a cover story I did on Cop Shoot Cop (who, again, I’ve discussed innumerable times here, but most recently here). Michael shot some suitably stark, ominous black n’ white shots of the band for the cover and the inner spread that I was quite taken with.
Anyway, I can’t remember why or when I stopped contributing to Perspectives, but it was invariably due to getting another job somewhere or possibly the operation folding, but by the tail end of the 90’s, it was done and dusted. I stayed in touch with several of its folks (and have since re-kindled some friendships via Facebook), but fell out of touch with Michael Ackerman entirely.
In the ensuing years, however, Michael has become a photographer of some renown, revered for his genuinely haunting, black n’ white images. He even had a book of his work published not too long back.
With all this in mind, I decided to reach out to Michael and see if he might (a) even remember me and (b) maybe share those old Cop Shoot Cop photographs.
Addendum: Here's a nice interview Michael did not too long back, rife with lots of his images...